A Taste of Family at Mina’s Mediterraneo
The moment you enter Mina’s Mediterraneo, you immediately feel as though you’ve been welcomed into your best friend’s home, the newest member of the family. It’s a large space made over by owner, Yasmine Kotb’s own vibrant life and homage to culture. Vintage travel posters lining the walls take you back to simpler times and far away places, while towering loft windows are reminiscent of New York rooftops. Your eyes wander over souvenirs and meaningful requerdos that pepper the shelves, and the wall to wall chalkboard menu warmly boasts the extensive talents of the culinary staff with house favorites and daily improvisations. Everything about the place is a catalyst for sharing. From a wide, open atmosphere for socializing over family-style food, to deep corners for intimate storytelling among friends.
And that’s exactly what Kotb wanted to create with the expansive place to begin with–a neighborhood joint that both frequent customers and curious newcomers would be proud of. A nomadic visionary working where the winds took her, Yasmine landed on 79th ST with a clear path in mind and an incredibly blank canvas. With her parents the owners of a popular joint in Houston for over 15 years, it’s clear that what makes Mina’s Mediterraneo so homey is its roots in the family. She greets patrons herself, shares in laughter with her staff, and pushes the boundaries of what an eatery of this caliber should reflect: elevated food without the unwanted fluff.
The cuisine covers every inch of the Meditteranean from pizza and tabouli to moussaka and beef bourgignon – infusing each dish with the nostalgia of a place once traveled. At Mina’s, everything is made with heaps of heart and soul, fresh from the other side of the world and from their home to yours. Where simple tastes turn into complex blends of flavors. The menu is a gallery of dishes seasoned with the wisdom of being passed down within a trusted family, each plate the exact replica of Yasmine’s mother’s own recipes. With a great amount of local love sprinkled in like Wynwood Brewing Co. and MIA Beer Co. drafts, plus the freshest ingredients for your plate, it’s no surprise that the surrounding residents frequent the spot more than once a week.
We went on a quiet Wednesday evening, where the candlelight danced to the rhythm of heart-felt conversations over wine and all the fresh-baked pita we could get our hands on. If culture were to teach you one thing it would be not to overlook the simplest of pleasures, and in this case, we mean the dips. Some of the freshest hummus, tzatziki, and baba ganoush in town, but we absolutely fawned over the spicy feta dip, a must-have when you head over with your family. Stuffed grape leaves, fresh falafel and lamb sliders in the most adorable mini pitas you’ll ever see were next. The lamb sliders, by the way? Unbelievably tender with just the right amount of spice. There’s a vegan moussaka for the alternative-friendly, but it’s all about the Moroccan pizza with its piles of sautéed onions, peppers, and house-made lamb sausage folded with fresh harissa. Another can’t-miss performance for your taste buds. The dark chocolate tart is like a fresh-baked Toblerone bar, and we’re sad to say that we couldn’t snap a photo of the baklava, not because it wasn’t positively perfect, but because the plate never found its way on the table before the smell of baked pistachios and honey hand our hands all over them.
Nearing three years, Mina’s is still looking to make itself more special by expanding its outdoor garden and flooding it with the twinkle of cafe lights, candles, and the strumming of local musicians multiple nights a week. You can drink in live music every Friday and Saturday for now, but every last Wednesday of the month, the garden will come alive to Miami-based musical juggernauts starting with the voice Miami Herald dubbed “Cuban Adele”, Yoli Mayor on October 26th. Yasmine and her entire team are passionately working for ways to push the confines of what a “Mediterranean” restaurant usually defines itself as. For now, she’s opening her doors and welcoming creatives and expressive admirers alike–building a home away from home in a neighborhood filled with promise and whose very foundations are constructed on culture.